New finance minister jailed twice by Mahathir

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Lim Guan Eng. Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s finance minister, relatively unknown in international financial circles, is a man he threw into prison twice.

Mahathir announced three top Cabinet posts on Saturday, including Lim Guan Eng, a former banker and chartered accountant, as finance minister. It is for the first time in 44 years that the finance ministry is being headed by a member of the ethnic Chinese community.

In the last administration, the post was held by ousted Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was handed a thumping defeat by Mahathir’s alliance in Wednesday’s general election.

Lim, 58, is best known in Malaysia for being the chief minister of Penang, the second richest state in the country and home to a popular tourist island and industrial port.

As finance minister, Lim will be expected to oversee the new government’s plan to repeal a deeply unpopular goods and services tax, which it has promised to do within the first 100 days. He will also have to manage the revenue shortfall that will cause.

But he added: “He will have to work quickly to broaden ties with the international financial community.”

Lim would likely be guided by the government’s newly appointed five-member advisory team, which includes former Malaysian finance minister Daim Zainuddin and central bank governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, both of whom are well known overseas.

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